Today is ” Easter Monday” in France. Many countries in Europe get this day off, including France. Great opportunity to recover from my first half marathon yesterday.
My longest race up until then had been the Paris 20K a few years back. I had a really bad experience : cold temps and pouring rain for not only the race but the one hour wait time before and 45 minutes to clear the race area afterwards. It was awful, the weather stiffened up my knees and it took me several months to recover.
Fast forward a few years : I decided end of February to sign up for a race to keep me accountable and motivated during the month of March which was going to be tough due to a ton of travel.
I looked for a race that was not 100% on asphalt which is what kills my knees. So I found one at Fontainebleau, kind of a small Versailles 70 km south of Paris, with a beautiful castle and a charming town. Some of the race was through the forest / park around the castle, so I figured that was good… not too much asphalt !
As race time grew near, I made a list of everything I needed to anticipate :
- Prepare snack
- Prepare water
- Hot drink ?
- Change of dry clothes
- Medical certificate
- Lay out outfit & sneakers
- Safety pins x4
- Double check website
- Charge phone / watch / Ipod
Laid my clothes out and double checked everything several times :
- Running pants
- Thin shirt
The race was at 4:30 p.m. Is that an odd time ? So I didn’t have to leave until after lunch. I was so worried about traffic & parking that I left 3 hours before hand. Indeed, on the site it said parking was 1 km away and I wasn’t sure how I could check my things, so I wanted to get there early to scope everything out.
I got there with plenty of time to spare, about 2:30 p.m. and there was actually parking in the center of the city, 3 minutes from where the race started. Sweet.
There were so many people : there were 2 races for kids and a 10K, the weather was fantastic, AND it was Easter… so people were out either visiting the castle or just walking around. I immediately went to pick up my bib, 3 minutes from the car in the other direction. Everything was well marked.
After that I had about 90 minutes to wait / warm up / use the bathroom….all those pre-race things. I sat in my car a bit keeping warm, watching the other runners get ready. There was one (really nice looking !) guy, dressed in white with really small, tight running shorts who kept my attention for a few minutes with his pre-race ritual. But then it was time to warm up so I jogged around the castle. Look at that blue sky !
Here are my key take aways and information about the race itself :
- I don’t like feeling crowded : There were about 800 runners signed up for the race. Apart from the start and waiting for things to thin out, I didn’t feel crowded at all.
- Good weather conditions help : The weather conditions were absolutely perfect. 53, blue sky, not much wind. A 10 out of 10 day
- Pacing is hard : The first few kilometers were fine. I had really warmed up and I ran about 5 km completely pain free. But I felt I was going a bit too fast and didn’t want to completely burn out at the start of the race. So I slowed down a bit.
- Setting short term goals kept me focused : I kept thinking to myself… you are 25% done, one more kilometer and you will be 33% done… there is a water station in another 1,5 kilometers…we are coming up on the gravely part so your knees will have less impact…
- Three loops : I am on the fence about how I feel about this. It gave some familiarity, knowing what was coming up and where the water stations were, but after you have run the same portion twice, the third time gets really boring.
- The leader is already passing me ? Around km 11 I was feeling good, albeit a slight twinge in my right hip flexor, that I had pulled during interval training a couple weeks ago. Then a bike and motorcycle passed us, telling us to make way for the lead runner. Whoa. I figured he must be running almost twice as fast. And I look and its the guy I had been watching prepare for the race, dressed in white and tight runner shorts. Of all the people I could have watched prepare for the race, I watched the guy who won. Go dude ! I was passed by probably 15 men at some point. I was on my second loop, they were on their third. Impressive ! I was waiting for a woman to pass me… only one did.
- I continued to have a hard time keeping the same pace. Sometimes I was trying to keep up with other runners, sometimes I tried passing… I varied from 8,5 km/h to 10,5 km/h. I knew my time overall was not that great because you can not run 9,5 km/h and expect to come in under 2 hours.
- I definitely prefer having people around than running completely alone. Five km from the end there were these 3 guys. I think they had finished and were “re-running” parts of the route, because they looked much too fit to be going the slow pace I was. I followed them a good part of the way.
- I can finish strong. With 2 km left I was feeling good. The route was dirt, my hip flexor and knees were feeling ok, I seemed to have fueled correctly, so I decided to go fast. I practically sprinted the last 2 km. Not sure if it was adrenaline, runner’s high, or general happiness but I NAILED the finish !
- My time is a bit longer than I would have liked but I am still happy with what I accomplished.
- My only disappointment was not getting a medal. We received a tshirt but I really would have liked a medal for my first half !
I ended the race on a high, thrilled to have finished relatively pain free. The conditions were great, the route was easy, I LOVED it and I would definitely do it again.